When we think of abusive relationships, the first thing that comes to mind is physical abuse. When you’re in a physically abusive relationship, you know it. You don’t have to ask yourself, “Is he abusing me? Is this abuse?” Then there’s the verbally abusive relationship. This type of abuse brings to mind comments, generally made with raised voice, such as: “You stupid fucking fat bitch.” “You lying whore.” Or something along those lines. I think we all can agree that these types of comments are abusive.
But there are other types of abuse that are more insidious, but just as damaging. What if he “just” gets angry all the time?
What if he’s hostile, treating every interaction as if it were a call to battle? If there’s conflict, he’s not interested in resolving it. His sole focus is to win. By whatever means possible. With this guy, a good offense is the best defense.
For example, you’ve asked him to sell a pair of your (very gently used) Prada shoes on eBay. The auction is not going well and the bids are very low ($12) two days before the close of bidding. You tell him to shut it down if the bids haven’t reached $75 by the end of the day. He ignores your request. He says you should defer to him. He knows best and is certain there will be a flurry of activity at the end of the bidding period. Turns out he was wrong, there wasn’t a flurry of activity, and he had to get a friend to bid on the shoes so that they went for $35 instead of $15. When you express your displeasure about his refusal to shut down the auction, he tells you he’s upset with you for not having faith in him. And as a result, you need a time out. A time out, he says. So he won’t be seeing you that evening as you had planned.
What the fuck?
What if he blames you for things for which you are not responsible? For example, he gets lost on the way to the gym (where he’s been several times), and lights into you claiming it’s your fault because you don’t know how to draw a map. Never mind that it wasn’t your responsibility to get him to the gym or draw him a map in the first place. (Do you know about the Google, asshole?) He insists that it is. And you’ve failed utterly (even though in reality, it was a perfectly accurate map). You’re inept at map-drawing (and the message here is, you’re a typical dumb woman), and as a result, it’s your fault he couldn’t find the gym. And he’s angry with you. Very, very angry.
What if he yells at you for singing in the car because he’s had enough? No matter that he’d been singing along with you until the moment he decides he’s had enough and explodes. He’s had enough and by god you’re going to shut the fuck up immediately. He says that singing is his domain (seeing as he’s a musician and all), and listening to your caterwauling gets on his last fucking nerve. He has belittled your singing and squashed your joy. He’s back in control. You’re upset about his irrational outburst, and you now are wondering whether you should ever sing out loud again. Things are so tense, so unpleasant, that you don’t want to go where you were headed: out for your birthday dessert. And you tell him as much. He then becomes angrier because you’re angry with him for his bad behavior. When you get home, he stomps around as if you’ve done him wrong. You go to bed early, just to avoid being around him. The next day, he acts as if nothing is wrong; everything that happened the night before has been forgotten. He’s acted like a complete and utter asshole on your birthday weekend, but makes no apology. And there is to be no discussion. “Just drop it,” he says. “Do you want to ruin the rest of the weekend?”
What if he denies your reality? He tells you that you’re being petty or sensitive for getting angry when you’ve caught him in a lie. (And he lies a lot.) What if he refuses to tell you where he’s going, or where he’s been, insisting it’s none of your business where he is every minute of the day?
The trouble with this type of abuse (and make no mistake, it is abuse) is that we question our reality. We know something feels wrong, but we aren’t sure the behavior qualifies as abusive. We think we somehow are responsible for their anger. This is especially true if, like me, you’ve grown up in a home filled with abuse. Your threshold for acceptable behavior is much lower than for people who didn’t grow up in toxic environments. We think if we had just drawn the map a little better, if we hadn’t carried on singing for so long, if we didn’t have such a terrible singing voice, if we’d just tempered our happiness a little (being really happy is obnoxious, you know), or if we’d not called him on his lies, things between you might be better. After all, did the lie really matter? Did it really matter that he said he was going home to work, when instead he went to a movie with his “ex”-girlfriend? And the shoes. You hadn’t worn them in a while. They were just sitting in the closet. So weren’t you better off with $35 than with a pair of Prada sitting in the closet collecting dust? (Personally, I’d rather they collected dust than selling a $800 pair of shoes for $35.)
The trouble with this kind of guy is that he’s an abusive asshole. But we think if we just do everything a little better, he won’t be.
Snap out of it. It’s not you, it’s him. He’s an asshole. He’s abusive. He’s mean and nasty and manipulative. You can’t fix him by being better, or nicer, or more forgiving. The only thing you can do with a guy like this is leave him. Leave. And don’t look back. No matter what he says, no matter how he tries to manipulate you into staying and putting up with his abuse, don’t do it. Leave him to his sad, pathetic, miserable life.
Great post which I relate to very much, I am in the process of writing about my relationship with the psycho verbal abuser. Well it wasn’t really a relationship, relationships require the input of two people & that’s impossible with people like this.
Thanks so much, Phoenix. You’re exactly right, involvements with these men aren’t really relationships. I look forward to reading your posts on the subject. Seeing how common these “relationships” are is beginning to make me feel “normal,” again.